ST. CHARLES – Those attending Tuesday's public hearing on whether St. Charles should allow the retail sale of recreational marijuana sent a strong message to plan commissioners that they oppose the idea.
All those speaking at the St. Charles Plan Commission meeting were against allowing retail stores to sell recreational marijuana. There currently is one medical marijuana dispensary in St. Charles.
The hearing was continued until the Oct. 8 Plan Commission meeting as plan commissioners continue to consider the matter. Among those speaking against the idea was former St. Charles alderman Greg Pacelli.
"What kind of a message does this send to young families looking to move to the Pride of the Fox when you have marijuana shops in your downtown?" Pacelli asked.
He also urged aldermen not to allow retail stores to sell recreational marijuana just in hopes of garnering additional revenues for the city. According to St. Charles Finance Director Chris Minick, the city could see $1 million in sales tax revenue per $20 million in recreational marijuana sales.
"Don't sell the city out for the additional sales tax revenue," Pacelli said. "In the long run, there's going to be a higher price to pay."
Also speaking against the idea was St. Charles resident Vicki Foley, president of the nonprofit organization Chris Walk Against Substance Abuse. Her son, Chris, died of a heroin overdose in 2007.
Foley said her son had used marijuana before moving on to heroin.
"There is a likelihood that marijuana use can lead to addiction of other substances," she told plan commissioners. "Are you willing to take this risk in St. Charles?"
At the City Council's Aug. 19 Government Operations Committee meeting, aldermen voted 6-3 to direct city staff to begin the zoning process for two recreational sales facilities, one on the east side of St. Charles and one on the west side. Voting "no" were Second Ward Alderman Rita Anne Payleitner, First Ward Alderman Ronald Silkaitis and Second Ward Alderman Arthur Lemke.
The city's zoning ordinance would have to be changed to allow the retail sale of marijuana. As part of the committee's recommendation, recreation marijuana dispensaries would be allowed as a special use in districts zoned for community businesses and regional businesses and that no more than two dispensaries could be located in the city – one on the east side and one on the west side of the Fox River.
In addition, businesses must have operated a licensed medical marijuana dispensary for at least two years. On-premise consumption lounges and production and distribution facilities would not be permitted as part of the committee's recommendation.
Beginning Jan. 1, the law will allow Illinois residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana per resident. Residents also will be able to possess 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of THC – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation – contained in a cannabis-infused product. Nonresidents can possess half those amounts.
Registered medical marijuana patients will be allowed to grow up to five cannabis plants in their home and possess more than 30 grams of cannabis if it is grown and secured in their residence under certain conditions.